Lawmaker, Drivers Push for Change in "Dangerous" HWY Intersection

HOT SPRINGS VILLAGE, Ark. - A state lawmaker told his supporters he failed them by not being able to convince the Highway and Transportation Department to make a change to a stretch of highway in Garland County.

Some worry it will take somebody dying before something is done and they say that shouldn't be the case anywhere in the state.

Verna Taylor's family was rear-ended in March of 2016 as they sat in the middle of Highway 7 waiting to turn onto Brookhill Ranch Road near Hot Springs Village. 

Their handicap accessible van, which had her disabled son inside, was totaled. The visible damage did not look too severe but the value of the structural damage totaled the vehicle. Fortunately however, no one, including the people inside the other car were hurt too bad. 

Taylor fears however that something worse could happen.

"We don't want to get to that point and I don't want it to be my fatality or someone that we love or anyone else's loved one," she remarked.

State Representative Mickey Gates(R-Hot Springs) has heard Taylor's story along with others about similar accidents where southbound Highway 7 condenses from two lanes to one but drivers often sit in a still widened lane waiting to turn. Further back, a merge sign directs drivers right into their path. 

Gates pointed out, "We're telling them to merge left, right into the rear-end of people stopped to turn left." 

Gates has taken the concerns to AHTD asking for a new sign that directs people to merge right. He was told not enough people drive the stretch in one hour, and the department only has two accidents on record in the last seven years. None of which warrant a change; a criteria he worries could have implications beyond this small stretch in his county. 

"[It's] sad that we're getting to the place where we have to wait until we have enough bad accidents to change signage," he added.

In a Facebook post Gates said, "I must confess my failure to get a simple highway sign replaced. I had no clue that a state government department could be so hard to reason with."

Gates urged his voters to contact AHTD rather than their legislature, especially if you have been rear-ended or nearly rear-ended at the intersection. He insists more accidents have happened than are on record with State Police.

"We shouldn't have to have a fatality," Taylor said. "There shouldn't be so many - there shouldn't be a count number."

Gates and Taylor both suggest a merge right, rather than left sign, could make it safer keeping drivers out of the path of someone stopped waiting to turn.

AHTD argued it's not that simple. To see their full explanation click on the images above.

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